Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Legalized Bribery

I was driving to work a couple of days ago and NPR had a story about our esteemed leaders in Washington, DC and how they are paid off for their votes. The reporter was interviewing someone who called it "legalized bribery." When you only commute 2 miles to work this is as much story as you can get listening to the radio, but it stuck with me.

Legalized Bribery - what the USA government is all about these days. You wonder how soon you will see this as a new term in Webster's Dictionary?

JAL nepotism - the management nightmare

Click the title to see "The Southern's" story about John A Logan Junior College and their discussion about nepotism in hiring. I snorted corn flakes out my nose this morning when reading that there is concern that the applicant pool might not have high enough quality if a board member's family was excluded from being hired. I have a romantic vision that board members are there to help the institution and not to feather bed jobs for their families.

Back to the title - can you imagine having to manage the child or close relative of a JAL board member or anyone else who works there for that matter? Read my last post about the terrible manager at SIUC who has a spouse riding herd on anyone who might want to fix that screwed up situation as a case in point.

Southern Illinois if full (full!) of this kind of nepotism crap in our public institutions. If you are wondering why JAL is doing better than SIUC, maybe leadership that is will to publicly address these kinds of issue should be highlighted? Good for JAL for discussing this and shame on the board members who have gotten family members jobs in the past and future.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bad managers - how you can tell

Like trying to figure out some else's marriage, it is really hard to tell who is a good manager from the outside of an organization. Maybe they seem like a jerk to you, but their results are great? Maybe the employee that is complaining would complain no matter what? How can we determine who the worst managers are from the outside?

One very good way is to study how many people have left the organization and see how that compares to other groups and industry norms. Sometimes this is called the employee's voting with their feet. Granted, sometimes bad things happen good managers, so you need to examine the situation and see if the management is bad or just unlucky. High turnover is a classic warning sign of a bad manager.

There is a person at SIUC that has managed to turn over their staff at a rate in excess of 50% per year, with 100% leaving in just the 3 years I have been watching (this is a record in my experience). Well known as a management suck-up and cruel to everyone under their power, this person keeps their job through excellent effort in personal PR and having a spouse in a position to help protect their job in times of need. The jobs people are leaving are SIU full-time jobs that are pretty well paid for SI, full benefits and almost all of them have left for jobs that don't have benefits just to escape their manager. Take note, these are University people so you know they aren't big risk takers. Can you imagine? There is a manager at SIUC who has turned over their whole staff and is still a manager!

I have a crisp, new $2 bill that I will give to the person who correctly guesses who this loser is.

Monday, July 24, 2006

DECO Buy or Sell?

On the top of the front page of the Southern Illusion today there is a Jim Muir interview with Judy Barr Topinka. She is calling for breaking up the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (AKA DECO). If we view DECO as a stock, would be buy or sell?

I have to admit that my experience with DECO under Gov. Rod is pretty bad. It is completely political, non-existent results, stupid and misplaced spending. As far as I can tell it is pork barrel and not much more (you know if you get the money they are smart and if someone else gets it there is waste).

Should be there private interaction with this kind of state giveaway/economic development institution? It would be impossible for DECO to do worse IMHO, so changing makes sense. Is Topinka my favorite in the governor race? No, both candidates seem like business as usual, bought and paid for modern politicians.

On DECO in its current form, I'm a SELL. Better reorg that group of break it up, it isn't working.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thinking about SIU like a stock

When I think about SIU, I view each college as a company with a stock and each department in the college as a major division of the company. Then I take a look at the performance of the pieces and try to figure out if the stock is a buy, hold or sell. You know act like the stock analysts, compare results with other like universities, look for reasonable expectations of growth and improvement, and known areas of excellence.

A reasonable question would be is the department better off or worse off than it was 1 year ago, 2 years ago, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ago? How about the college? What is the succession plan when the current leaders exit? Is there a culture of excellence or not? If the results are poor, is leadership replaced, fixed or is everybody coasting? This is standard stock analyst kinds of things, but it seems that people don't try to apply it at SIU.

Sometimes you are in the wrong area, so no matter what you do your results can't be good. For example, when I was a Computer Science student at SIUC in 1980 to 1984 there were 1000 majors. I think they are down to 100 or 150 majors now. This trend is playing out all over the country, so it isn't clear from this one statistic that SIUC's CS department is poor. We would have to dig deeper to understand if CS is any good.

One interesting mental game is to figure out were the money in the academic world and see if the SIU departments that should be getting money are doing their job. The big money is available in Business, Engineering, Medicine, Computer Science, many of the Science areas.

Just something to think about, more later.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Good read about good management and our first comment!

I was going to wait until SIU was back in session for fall semester before writing much more about it, but here is another thought about management.

If you want to be a good manager, one way to approach it is to read about it. The best book about improving an organization IMHO is "Good to Great" by Collins (hit the title for this post to see what Amazon says about it and by a copy to help support the Saluki Swim team). A huge industry has sprung up over the last 20 years selling business knowledge to managers and owners. If you own or manage people you owe it to yourself to read this book.

I have been playing with buying 20 or 30 copies of "Good to Great" and handing them out to the SIU Board of Trusties and the administrators. The problem is that I'm fairly sure that none of them would read it. We can tell by the actions of SIU management that no one has read this book and understands the message.

I assumed that 3 or 4 people reading the blog, but someone was kind enough to send a comment today. It is a fact that there is at least one reader of this blog. A red letter day in the history of the blog.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Is the Green Party really a Republican creation?

We all know that George "W" Bush wouldn't be President without Ralph Nader and the Green Party. When the Demo's filed their suit about bad signatures on the Green petition for Governor, all the Southern Illinois people who were listed in the paper as signee' were clearly Green Party people (say Rich Whitney and wife) or Republican's (say Walter Wendler).

I wonder how much money and support comes from Republicans for the Green Party? I wonder if it is 25%? 50%? A cheap way to split the vote and make sure the far right wins isn't it?

The Southern Illinois Liberal - equal time.

On the West Coast there are many liberals, but most of them work for a living a real companies. It makes them capitalists (to some extent) and the prominent ones are often business owners. There is a common belief in people working hard, firing people who don't work, attempting to make money and realizing that people who do work harder deserve more. Imagine your standard liberal agenda of equality for all, social responsibility, educational opportunities for all, individual control of their own body and property, but mixed with a capitalistic work beliefs based on merit. They is why the liberal/democratic "blue states" are doing so much better than the "red states" economically IMHO.

One of the main thing that amazes me since I moved back to Carbondale 5 years ago is the special kind of liberal that Carbondale contains. Here the liberals mostly work for the State of Illinois and not for private companies. Many of our liberals have never worked for a company, never been rewarded for working harder, never seen the level of performance required by leaders of real companies. Once you realize that the liberals of Southern Illinois have mostly never held a real job, the conservative's theory that they don't have a clue about business starts to make some sense.

A quote from a "SI Liberal" sticks with me - "no one should make more than $200,000 per year!" What the heck? When do educated people start to hold it against people who make more money and work harder? I would suggest that SIU stop being a communist state and switch over to a merit based system, but the first thing you would have to do is have competent leadership and that isn't going to happen without replacing almost everyone who is in the pecking order at the level of Dean and above.

Of course, your comments are welcome.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Poor health care providers or political attack?

I was reading (again) about the "poor health care professionals" and their "dire" problems with not being paid on time by the State of Illinois. Click the title of this offering for the Southern Illusion's article.

Let me explain the facts of doing business as I see them. The state owes "The Clinic" some money that everyone knows they are going to pay late. So "The Clinic" goes and gets a loan from their local friendly banker to pay their bills until the money from the state arrives. The interest on the loan is figured into what people are charged, so "The Clinic" isn't really loosing anything. Certainly, the clinic's owners wish they could make more.

If we define being rich as the state where your average employee has a house of greater than 5000 square feet, I'm thinking that "The Clinic" as an organization is rich. So, why are a bunch of rich people complaining about this? I guess they might think that they are entitled to more profit (I think I am also) or it could be a good political lever to attack the Democratic Governor in an election year? Everyone knows that trial lawyers are Demos and Doctors, Insurance Agents and Drug companies are Republicans. Most likely it is a little of both.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Southern Illinois Conservative?

In the last few years I have started to enjoy watching the special form of conservatives that we have around here. In general, they can be counted on to complain about how unfair taxes are, want all their services and want everyone else to get no services.

For example, our Southern Illusion columnist Jim Muir. On July 11th Jim wrote a nice article about how "The ongoing struggle by United Mine Workers officials to preserve health care benefits for retired miners - benefits that were lost when Horizon Natural Resources filed bankruptcy." Turns out there is a movement to have the US government pay for their health benefits because the company has played the game to get out of it. Jim thinks this is a great idea and to be honest with you I feel bad for those miners myself.

The problem is that if the miners get bailed out, shouldn't everyone get bailed out by the feds? Shouldn't the Enron people get back their lost millions? I'm not sure that asking for handouts for your friends makes you a conservative, but it does make a you a Southern Illinois conservative.

I think Mr. Muir should start trying to get the feds to bail out everyone who goes through hard times, if he knows them or not (in the name of fairness of course). Have to call his radio show and suggest it. ;)

I'll get to the Southern Illinois liberal later, don't worry I'm equal opportunity.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Interesting article from Business Week

All about small towns attracting business. Lots of pictures.

Business building updates

Looks like the building across from the DQ has sold to one of the CCS founders. Wonder what she is going to do with it?

The AG Edwards building on Giant City road has sold to a doctor for a pretty penny. I hear it was a good deal anyway.

The Chicago Underground is for sale. Listed around $60k without the building. If there was parking it would be an interested location.

What SIU means when they say it isn't "public money."

A second thought about the Poshard inauguration. When SIU says they aren't spending public money, what they mean is that they are going to spend the money we give them. Clearly this means that if you are giving SIU money you shouldn't give it to the general fund unless you want to fund the administration party fund. Looking back on my contrubutions to SIU this year (so far), they seem to be paying for this party with my money.

I guess if SIU was well run it wouldn't be worth mentioning.

Only $40,000?

I was reading about how Glenn Poshard's signing in as SIU President was only going to cost $40k. I have already received a postcard about it (which was very nice, gold leaf and everything) that cost at least $1 to make, print and mail. There are written invitations to follow, but that may just be for the "big givers" like me?

I think they mean if we don't count the costs fairly and don't count people's time and we sift as much expense to other line items as possible, then it might cost only $40k.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A little thought about management.

At my little company there is a simple management idea. If the people who work here are doing working hard, it is my fault. Let me say it again, if the employees aren't working hard, it is the fault of management.

Maybe some employees should be fired or have a foot applied to their rear ends, but that is a management problem too. Maybe the work isn't explained right, they don't have the right tools, etc. Same thing, management problem.

Think about it, good companies are based on good management. Of course, it is about good people too. If you have bad management the good people leave though.

Interesting article about genius

I found this article in Wired to be an interesting read. Click the title of the post to get the link.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

When are campaign contributions limits ethical?

I have been thinking about campaign contributions limits and if when a candidate announces one, if it is ethical. Let's just imagine a multi-millionaire running for office against a normal middle class citizen. When the rich person says they will only take small contributions knowing they can use this as a political weapon against their opponent, is it OK? I remember in the last election cycle Chuck Grace was running against a local lawyer that did this.

One of the reasons that Illinois politics are so dirty is there are no campaign limits of any kind. You can give our Governor a check for $1M today and likely by your child a nice job in the State government or a $3M grant for your new baseball stadium. Of course, your child or baseball park would only move forward because they are the best option. ;)

Nothing better than the campaign season in Illinois, like a good rain at a dump there is lots of colorful runoff to examine, if you can keep your feet from getting dirty.

Murphy Walmart, now things get interesting.

I was reading the front page of the Southern Illusion yesterday and enjoyed their little article about the nice folks trying to stop Wallyworld from opening a big store in their residential neighborhood. A key idea is that Murphysboro has blown the legal description of the land and should be forced to go back to square one on the whole annexation and rezoning of the land. Your insider scoop is that Murphy did blow the legal description, but may be able to go forward anyway. The courts will be handing down decisions about this and a number of other issues throughout the rest of the year (at least).

If Murphysboro has to go through the whole thing again, I have a suggestion for the local home owners who are trying to stop it to start planning self storage units, drug treatment centers, trailer courts and other undesirable neighborhood business next to the homeowners who signed the petition. Share the pain. Let other neighbors get that "not in my backyard feeling." I'm sure that some people are doing it because it is good for their town, but many more are doing it because they might be able to sell out and make money. I would be figuring out who needed to share the pain of commercial development if I was trying to stop it.

Let me say now for the record that I like to live where there is zoning. There is nothing better for the pols of Murphy than this deal, you get to screw over people who don't vote for you. I'll wait for someone wiser than be to decide if the Murphysboro city government has acted unethically on this whole deal. I can tell you that I would be pretty pissed if they were building a loading dock in my backyard.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sheila starts up her Mayor campaign

Got this email through secret sources. It is a little late for our few readers to go, but thought I would post it anyway because then I can blog about it later. :)


From: Sheila Simon
Sent: Wednesday, June 28, 2006 8:24 AM
Subject: July 1st Fundraiser

June 28, 2006

Don't forget the Sheila Simon for Mayor FUNdraiser Picnic this Saturday, July 1, at Turley Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. $2.50 will get you a hot dog (veggie and kosher available too), chips, drink, and dessert. Cold watermelon will be served too and there will be sign and button making, music, face-painting, and t-shirts for sale.

We have had a great response from volunteers who are providing all the picnic supplies and food and doing the cooking (we have a great cast of celebrity chefs lined up), serving, and cleanup. Now we just need you to bring some friends and join the fun. Please forward this reminder to everyone on your e-mail list. This will be a great way to kick off the Fourth of July weekend and Sheila's campaign!

If you can't attend and would like to make a donation to the campaign ($50/person limit), you may send it to: Friends of Sheila Simon, P.O. Box 353, Carbondale, IL 62903. For more information on the campaign please check out the website

See you on Saturday!

Gayle Pesavento
FUNdrasier Coordinator
982-2870 or 534-0263

SIU - Honoring our past?

This email was sent out to everyone at SIU, but I got a cool postcard with gold leaf about it.


I am pleased to inform you that the inauguration of Dr. Glenn W. Poshard as the seventh President of Southern Illinois University will occur on Thursday, September 28th, at 2:00 p.m. at the SIU Arena in Carbondale, Illinois.

The inauguration will conclude a two week period of system-wide events in celebration of the University's remarkable evolution and its continuing quest for a position of preeminence among the nation's leading institutions of higher education under the guidance of Dr. Poshard.

Please mark this date on your calendar. Further information on the installation ceremony and other planned events will follow.

Roger Tedrick
Chair, Board of Trustees
Southern Illinois University

Is all the SIU administration moving?

I hear that Uncle Walt has his house on the market, the new dean of engineering has his house on the market, the dean of liberal arts is leaving, a new dean of business is coming. Wow, that is a lot of changes in upper management.